Preparation disaster and emergency response
The Queensland Department of Education (DoE) is responsible for delivering educational services to approximately 515,000 Queensland students through about 1,234 State Schools. This is supported by over 81,000 employees throughout Queensland.
The department is a pillar within all communities and for significant periods has responsibility for our most valuable and vulnerable resource - our children. That responsibility includes their safety and security along with the safety and security of staff and other stakeholders engaged within educational precincts.
DoE disaster and emergency management arrangements follows the direction set by the Disaster Management Strategic Policy Framework (QLD Government) and it applies to those disasters and emergencies (natural hazards and threats from human-caused events) that occur, or are likely to occur, within or impact on:
- state schools including state primary, secondary and special education schools, state environmental education centres and outdoor education centres
- Department of Education workplaces including state schools and (Regional and Central Office accommodation) sites.
The department has developed this approach and arrangements to meet the challenges of disasters which span the planning, preparation, response and recovery phases of disaster management.
Disaster management legislation
Queensland's disaster management arrangements are outlined in the Disaster Management Act 2003 and the State Disaster Management Plan.
This legislation and its supporting plan applies to any natural hazards or human-caused event that causes, or has the potential to cause, serious community disruption that requires a significant coordinated response by the State and other entities to help the community recover from the disruption.
There is a range of legislation, key policies and procedures which direct and support DoE activities in planning, preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters and emergencies including:
DoE Disaster and Emergency Management Framework
The department has adopted a framework which outlines the system applied to manage disasters or emergencies. The system includes people, processes and structures to deliver outcomes.
The framework has three levels which are the:
- Disaster and emergency management arrangements
- Structure (which includes the tiers, entities, leaders and core response plans).
Principles of disaster and emergency management
Underpinning the department’s approach to disaster and emergency management are a set of general principles:
- being prepared for action
- all hazards approach
- tiered command and control structures
- tested Emergency Response Plans
- understood roles and responsibilities
- using a Common Operating Picture
- managing risk and uncertainty
- action learning.
The adherence of these principles during the management of responses has an underlying effect of supporting staff to lead and take action.
The Prevention Phase involves conducting an assessment to identify potential hazards and develop procedures and policies designed to mitigate or prevent damage. Prevention activities include:
- identifying and assessing hazards and associated risks presented by the natural or built environment
- reviewing and improving work practices
- addressing Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) issues
- reviewing relevant policies
- reviewing and improving security including signage, fences and sign in for visitors
- undertaking any school modification
- planning and preparing Emergency Response Plans (ERP).
Emergency and School Security (ESS) is responsible for developing state-wide emergency management policy for the department, providing emergency advice and assistance to state schools and DoE workplaces, including operational response services until they move into the Executive Response Team. It also provides advice to assist state schools and DoE workplaces review response and recovery procedures for their ERP.
Every government workplace and state schools in Queensland is required to have a documented ERP as part of its normal operational activities. The purpose of the ERP is to:
- provide details of roles and responsibilities, tasks and contacts for response activities
- minimise the impact of these events on students, staff, volunteers and visitors
- facilitate the return of the state schools or DoE workplace to normal operations as soon as safely possible.
Involves the taking of preparatory measures including final development or testing of plans and procedures to ensure that, if an event occurs, state schools and DoE workplaces can make decisions and assign resources to cope with the effects of the event. Preparedness activities include:
- implementation of controls to mitigate risks identified
- communicating the ERPs to all stakeholders
- undertaking Business Continuity Planning (BCP) that considers disruption due to a disaster or emergency
- practice the establishment of response teams and centres
- conducting table-top or functional exercises
- conducting evacuation, lockdown and other scenario exercises regularly, ensuring outcomes are recorded in MyHR WHS.
Event preparedness timeline
The timeline shows a full calendar year from January to December with the following events marked:
- End of January: bushfire season ends
- End of April: cyclone storm season ends
- End of July - bushfire season starts
- End of August - review ERP and update contact details
- Early-mid September - storm season starts
- End of October - cyclone season starts
- A period of three months from May to July - allocated exercise scenario period to test ERP.
With a focus on summer weather events, the above representation is effective. However when considering the broad nature of disasters or emergencies, this becomes less useful as responses (and subsequent recoveries) need to be ready for year-round implementation and so the prevention and preparation phases are actually concurrent activities. This poses some additional challenges for the department to be ready 24/7 and for 365 days per year.
The department’s response framework identifies three internal levels of command and control, being the strategic (Executive), operational (Regional) and tactical (School) levels. An additional level, the State level, also exists and this is the interface into the Queensland Disaster Management Committee (QDMC). This structure is consistent with the State arrangements, particularly the emergency services response structures and allows for alignment with other agencies as well as providing delegated decision making authority at each level for operational efficiency.
The Regional or operational level comprises regional resources and the Regional Director assumes the role of the Regional Response Controller (RRC). The RRC is responsible for the control of the regional response and reports to the Executive Response Controller. The RRC commands and coordinates the Regional Response Team (RRT) and the Regional Emergency Response Plan. The RRC will most likely be located closer to the incident and in the case of some incidents (floods/cyclones) may be within the event.
The key responsibilities of the RRC are to:
- lead the Regional Response Team
- manage the regional response
- support the School Response Controllers
- connect to the DDCG(s) and DDCC(s).
Regional Response Team
The RRT team is the regional level decision making body and is responsible for providing support to the tactical or School level. The RRTs are the key operational team to coordinate the regional response which may cover a large geographic area and may have a significant span of control. The RRT coordinates local resources and information, identifies tasks where extra resources are needed and passes information and requests to the Executive Co-ordination Centre (ECC).
The recommended structure of the RRT is as below. It has a more expansive structure than the ERT but this is due mainly to the span of control of the RRT. But it is also scalable depending on the direction of the RRC and needs of the regional response.
- Response Controller
- Advisory Group
- Level three:
- HR and Welfare
Regional Coordination Centre
A Regional Control Centre (RCC) will be established at a suitable location within the Region and will provide the technical capability for the RCC to communicate with the ECC and from, and to, regional schools and DoE workplaces.
Planning your disaster or emergency response
The Regional disaster and emergency response will be guided by:
The DoE Procedure Disaster and Emergency Management:
The region will annually provide the Regional Emergency Response Plan which will be stored in the department's central storage repository.
In planning your response through your ERP, the following information, tools, documents and links could prove useful.
Disaster and Emergency Communications Strategy provides a summary of the phases of an event and suggested internal and external stakeholder communications opportunities for schools and regions to consider.
Staff information and support
Staff should be familiar with their region's Emergency Response Plan including Regional Response Team members and communication strategies to disseminate information during the response and recovery phases.
Counselling and support
The department's provides all employees and their family members affected by a disaster or emergency with counselling services. Visit the
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) webpage or for external counselling services phone 1800 604 640 for more information.
Special leave entitlements
Staff are also able to access paid special leave to deal with the effects of natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, severe storms or bushfires under Special Leave Directive 9/13 (PDF, 61KB).
- Review the disaster and emergency management site for changes and updates.
- Identify and assess risks for the upcoming season.
- Develop, review, update your Emergency Response Plan
- Refresh roles and responsibilities with key staff.
- Test your Emergency Response Plan.
- Document key decisions on Decision log.
Emergency and School Security
- Phone: (07) 3034 6025 (disaster and emergency management)
- Phone: (07) 3034 6016 (disaster and emergency management)
- Phone: (07) 3034 6010 (school security)
- School Watch Phone: 13 17 88
Employee Assistance Program